Brand Codes Pt. 02: Shape, Typeface, Pattern, Sound

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January 13, 2024
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3 min read
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As I mentioned in the opening article of the series, Brand Codes are visual, sonic, olfactory and tactile assets of a brand, ensuring consistent and effective communication. Their main function is to get your brand noticed fast. Digital Brand Codes take this further and leverage digital technology to bring many of the static Brand Codes into life through digital design, web design, motion design, interaction design, etc. In the first part of the series, we talked about Symbol, Color, and Character. In the second part we talk about Shape, Typeface, Pattern, and Sound.

Shape

A human eye is receptive to a distinctive silhouette. In this video, Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons talks about the importance of crafting a good silhouette first so the audience identifies his characters instantly. You can trademark a silhouette. A Coca-Cola bottle shape is a trademark. Nike’s Air Force 1 silhouette is a trademark. Why? Because their shape created brand equity they have to protect. Shape is a very fast Brand Code.

You might consider playing with a specific shape in online communication where the attention span falls below 2 seconds. One of Muziker’s Brand Codes is a distinctive silhouette of the MuzMuz mascot. His shape is easy to draw and is memorable. It carries the letter “M” inside and builds brand equity.

Typeface

A bespoke typeface can get into places where many other Brand Codes can’t. I love the Burger King typeface created by Colophon Type Foundry. It is unique enough that if you see a sentence or a word typed in “Flame Bold”, the Burger King typeface, you know instantly it’s Burger King.

The problem with having a bespoke typeface is that it can be an expensive entry into having a strong brand asset. It might take a couple of weeks or months to have it ready to use. On the other hand, it saves you money in licensing over the long term. Anybody with an MS Word can create a piece of design that will be “on-brand”. Typeface can get into places where other Brand Codes can’t.

Pattern

Pattern can be a strong Brand Asset when the logo/symbol isn’t enough. You spot the Louis Vuitton bag from another end of an airport thanks to the iconic monogram pattern. Many of the other big fashion houses have their own iconic patterns. Gucci, Burberry, FENDI.

It is easy to point out big brands with a long history when we talk about iconic patterns. But suppose you have a company that organizes events. You have a huge screen behind you when you deliver a talk. A logo won’t do the job unless you scale it up. But let’s be honest, you’ll look like “make the logo bigger” meme. Instead, you fill the format with your brand pattern. If anyone in the audience takes a picture, there is a distinctive pattern behind you.

Sound

We know from research that sonic brand clues (sonic branding) and characters are the strongest Brand Codes. I am sure that by now you know the Netflix red ribbon sound. It lasts 2 seconds but you know immediately it is Netflix. Sonic clues are effective when there is a high density of brands in a space. In Japan, brands use sonic branding to be distinctive because there is too much visual noise. If you have a podcast, having a custom typeface doesn’t make as much sense as having a memorable and catchy intro.

Pattern · Shape · Smell · Sound · Typeface

Toman — Studio

About

Róbert Toman — Multidisciplinary designer specialising in Brand Identity, Bespoke Typography, Web Design, and Art Direction. Based in Bratislava, Slovakia.

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